Dress Norms in Law Firms Are Relaxing

The pandemic is the greatest revolution in the way we work, since the Industrial Revolution, shifting the centre of production from factories and offices back into the home. With that, there has also been a change in how people dress for work. Working from home demands a more comfortable style.

Office fashion has gradually become more and more casual, and with the shift to working from home, Lawyer’s Weekly speculates that it may signal the end of “suits, ties, and high heels” in legal practice.

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Street fashion has influenced office fashion for decades, gradually relaxing office norms. By shifting production to the home, office spaces are merged with living spaces, and the result is that people dress for work as they dress when they are at home.

It’s hard for any business to ask its workers to dress up in a suit and tie, or to wear a pantsuit and heels, when your workers are working from their own spaces.

In 1999, fashion designer, Tom Ford, predicted that as technological advances made it possible to work from home, fashion as he sees it would die out, because, “You can be working in your underwear and a T-shirt. Who cares? Who’s going to see you?”.

Ford’s prediction seems prescient today. Indeed, this is true even at the highest levels of society: when the leaders of the Group of Seven (G-7) nations met earlier this year, they posed for a photoshoot, which was the first time in which the G-7 leaders posed without ties.

Today’s lawyers work in jeans, track pants, or shorts and t-shirts, and dress up in formal office wear when they have to go to the office, or for important video conference calls.

At the same time, according to California Law Firm, clients have also begun to spend a significant amount of their time working from home, and they too have relaxed their dress codes.

So, you also have clients whose dressing has not just relaxed, but caused them to relax their expectations of how their lawyers should dress. This means that even for video conference calls, there is an understanding between both parties that dressing will not be as formal as it would be in the office.

The impact of work-from-home is not limited to people who work entirely, or partially from home. The ethos of the era has clearly influenced how people dress regardless of their work model. Law firms do not exist in isolation, they exist as part of this great socio-cultural tapestry, and they are being and will be influenced by this broad movement toward relaxed dress norms.

In a Lawyer’s Weekly poll, 57% of respondents felt that formal dress codes are now a thing of the past. However, there are many lawyers who do not think that this trend is as broad as it first seems. They believe that the practice of law is heavily dependent on one’s ability to make the right impression, and so, formal dress codes will still play a part, at least for high-impact scenarios.

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